Scoot: Mayor Cantrell vs. the City Council!

January 29, 2020 - 10:47 am

The fight between Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council heated up with the release of a stern letter Cantrell wrote to Council President Helena Moreno and Council Vice President Jason Williams.

Here is part of the Mayor’s letter to the Council:

"As has been stated to you in person, all applicable parties are very close to completing various, necessary legal agreements within the next week to allow the full demolition process to begin by the following week. A public examination of sensitive private contracts between the owner, its insurance company, the demolition company, its insurers and the like, prior to the finalization of these agreements, may cause some of the necessary parties to not participate in this complex recovery and demolition project. In fact, one of the insurers may have withdrawn due to the negative publicity surrounding a council member’s comments last week."

In closing, Mayor Cantrell gave this warning:

"To politicize the collapse at this time risks undermining the most recent progress and could further delay demolition of the site and inhibit the ability to conduct an appropriate investigation. As always, I remain committed to a safe demolition, full transparency and absolute accountability for the responsible parties."

The Mayor appropriately alludes to the complicated nature of all that encompasses the Hard Rock Hotel collapse; but to suggest that the Council is “politicizing” the tragedy is, in reality, the Mayor’s way of bringing politics into the conversation. The collapse should not be about politics. The tragic collapse of a major structure in downtown New Orleans is a shameful embarrassment to the citizens and the visitors to our city.

Aggravating the ongoing sore spot in the city was the wind shifting a red tarp that, unknowingly to the public, was placed to cover up the partially visible body of one of the victims. The sloppy, make-shift solution of the tarp brought to life the notion that the City of New Orleans was not properly managing the site.

Questions about the competence of the City have deep roots in the public’s psyche because of the City’s history of corruption and mismanaging city government. The history of past problems cannot be blamed on the Cantrell administration, but it is to be expected that public outrage will rise when it appears that history is being repeated.

If Mayor Cantrell wants to change the status quo, then it is up to her to be more transparent and do a better job of communicating with the citizens that put her in office, rather than arrogantly defend her side of the story.

When the Mayor told the City Council that investigating handling the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is none of their business, the first, and understandable, reaction from the citizens of New Orleans was that the Mayor must be hiding something.

Further increasing suspicion about the Mayor’s opposition to a Council investigation is a newly released report showing that Cantrell and her political action committee, Action New Orleans, received nearly $70,000 in political contributions from 1031 Canal Development, LLC, the developers of the Hard Rock Hotel.

To her credit, Mayor Cantrell recently said that the developers do bear some responsibility in the collapse, which contradicts the claim from an attorney representing the developer.  He said that, as developers, they are not actually doing the construction work and therefore are not responsible for the collapse. That is easily rebutted because, as developers, they should have been in touch with everything that was going on during the construction and since a partner in 1031 Canal Development, LLC is one of the contractors - it seems ridiculous to plead ignorance when it comes to actual construction of the hotel.

Today, the New Orleans City Council will begin a public hearing into whether to open a full investigation into the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel and in the letter to the Council - the Mayor said that she is banning anyone from her administration from participating. That doesn’t sound like a commitment to transparency.

The City Council should be inspired by the Mayor’s demand that it not investigate the collapse to move forward with a full investigation.

The arrogant behavior of Mayor Cantrell over the collapse of a major building that continues to scar the city’s skyline is not only unacceptable, but it suggests the Mayor has something to hide.

We - the people - have had enough of the City playing the game of politics at our expense and we should demand openness even if it uncovers unethical dealings. This is our city - not the politicians city to run as they choose.

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