Politicians rarely get the terms they expect. No matter how much they plan and strategize, events have a way of setting the agenda.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell knows this well. An activist from the post-Katrina neighborhood who served on city council before being elected in 2017, she took office promising to tackle entrenched inequalities and substandard infrastructure.
A crippling cyberattack was not in the plan; a fatal collapse of a hotel construction site; a carnival season marred by fatal float accidents and, as we later learned, one of the country’s first outbreaks of COVID-19; an economically devastating pandemic; and a rapidly developing and surprisingly damaging hurricane.
It has been a lot, to say the least, but managing a poor, aging, tourism-dependent and environmentally vulnerable city is not for the faint of heart.
Our take: LaToya Cantrell got a second term
Cantrell, who will be sworn in for a second and final term on Monday, has risen to the challenges in voters’ eyes – particularly, we believe, by ordering strict precautions to tackle a virus that has killed too many friends and relatives, an approach that has kept the relapses under control.
Other highlights of her first term included the deal she wrenched from tourism interests to get more money for the ever-exhausted Sewerage & Water Board, and a successful campaign to raise wages for low-income workers. salary.
Yet she begins her second term with a lot on her plate.
Violent crime, including carjacking, is on a frightening increase and the New Orleans Police Department remains understaffed. Residential waste collection, already spotty before Hurricane Ida, collapsed after the storm is now reduced to once a week; the mayor is working to bring back some privatized operations internally and to relaunch one of the two main contracts. Affordable housing remains scarce. Frustration over short-term rentals boiled throughout the campaign season, with many criticisms targeting the administration’s enforcement of the city ordinance.
At the end of her tenure, she found herself in a confrontation with neighborhood and culture advocates – and city council – over her desire to locate a new town hall on the site of the municipal auditorium. from Treme. Carnival is fast approaching, and after a year without, Cantrell promises to do everything possible to organize parades, even if the omicron variant disrupts everyone’s plans.
New Orleans remains a major economic engine in the state, but it feels like people are tired. You hear the word “malaise” in the city more than at any time since the Carter presidency.
Having said that, there are reasons to be hopeful. Leisure tourism is back, and so are festivals and conventions. There is federal money to meet long-standing needs, including infrastructure, and some friendly faces of the Biden administration – including Cantrell’s predecessor, Mitch Landrieu – to hopefully help.
Despite the inherent unpredictability of the job, Cantrell has big plans for new developments in New Orleans East and downtown, contract reform, public transportation that better meets the needs of residents, and investments in the city. early childhood education.
She can’t do it alone. In approving him for re-election, we applauded Cantrell’s tenacity, but also suggested that a more collaborative approach might help him. This is especially true now that the same electorate who gave him a second term also chose a fiercely independent city council.
We wish her a smoother navigation than she got in the first term and a chance to tackle her ambitious agenda without being distracted by crisis after crisis.
Harsh times can test leaders, but New Orleans is truly due for a hiatus.