Elections

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mayor-elect Y@ Speak

Posted By on Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 5:00 PM

This week brings us LaToya Cantrell vs. Desiree Charbonnet, Rosie O'Donnell vs. Steve Scalise, Rep. Garret Graves vs. Puerto Rico, and the Saints vs. everyone, except Airheads, which we now will debate 1. how best to eat them and 2. which flavor is the best flavor. (Correct answers are 1. slapping them into the bottom of the packaging and 2. pink lemonade.)

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Da Winnas and Da Loozas of the 2017 election

Posted By on Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 4:03 PM

The scene at LaToya Cantrell's victory party at the New Orleans Jazz Market. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • The scene at LaToya Cantrell's victory party at the New Orleans Jazz Market.

The 2017 citywide elections were indeed a watershed moment in New Orleans politics, just as I predicted in my column posted on Election Eve (Friday, Nov. 17). We not only got our first woman mayor, which was a foregone conclusion, but we also got our first Asian and Hispanic council members (the latter of whom was elected in the primary). The Council also went from five black members to three, and from four women to three.

More than that, the election of LaToya Cantrell as mayor and Cyndi Nguyen as councilmember from District E proves that the post-Katrina “bottom-up” electoral paradigm has gone citywide. Cantrell, a former community organizer and leader of the Broadmoor neighborhood’s comeback after Hurricane Katrina, mounted a grass roots campaign that mirrored both the style and substance of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. Cantrell also borrowed a page from former President Barack Obama in terms of her turnout operation, which used technology and social media to amazing effect. As a result, Cantrell becomes not only New Orleans’ first woman mayor but also our first truly post-Katrina mayor.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cantrell to become New Orleans' first woman mayor; Nguyen upsets Gray in District E; Banks beats Bloom by 131 votes in District B

Posted By , and on Sat, Nov 18, 2017 at 11:29 PM

New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell greets supporters before her victory speech. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell greets supporters before her victory speech.

LaToya Cantrell will be New Orleans’ first-ever woman to become mayor in the city’s nearly 300-year history. New Orleans voters elected the District B City Council member in the runoff against former municipal court judge Desiree Charbonnet, capping off a contentious election cycle marked by scandals over public credit card spending, attack ads and debate over the future of the city’s post-Katrina infrastructure, short-term rentals, crime, and the troubled Sewerage & Water Board.

“Almost 300 years, and we’re still making history,” Cantrell said at her campaign party at the New Orleans Jazz Market Nov. 18.

Cantrell spoke to Charbonnet over the phone earlier in the evening as early polling returns put Cantrell in the lead. “I said to her, ‘congratulations on standing with me on making history, because our history was two women in the runoff.’ And we both deserve to be proud of that,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell received roughly 60 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, with Charbonnet earning 40 percent. An estimated 32 percent of New Orleans voters showed up at the polls.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

A watershed election in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 12:00 PM

LaToya Cantrell. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • LaToya Cantrell.

Although the 2017 mayoral election gave us a painfully uninspiring field of candidates, it still produced a political watershed in several ways. Here are my takeaways one day before the election, assuming LaToya Cantrell wins easily, as suggested by every poll. (If Desiree Charbonnet somehow pulls off the biggest upset since Bienville hoodwinked the British Navy in 1699, I’ll eat what follows.)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

At mayoral panel, candidates plan a better future for New Orleans workers

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 11:01 PM

Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell addressed concerns of New Orleans workers tonight at a forum in Algiers. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell addressed concerns of New Orleans workers tonight at a forum in Algiers.


At a wide-ranging forum Nov. 9 that seemed to touch on almost every social problem in the city, mayoral candidates LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet presented their visions for helping New Orleans workers share in their hometown's economic prosperity.

The forum at Algiers Auditorium, which was hosted by Loyola College of Law's Workplace Justice Project (WJP) and co-sponsored by several other progressive and civic-minded groups, was designed around a recent WJP report called "The State of Working New Orleans: The Industries That Sustain the Status Quo." The 13-page report laid out a clear picture of the strain felt by of New Orleans workers, many of whom struggle to afford even basic living expenses on their current incomes.

"The reality of workers' lives includes the stress of multiple jobs and rising living costs, made harder by a city that attracts wealthy visitors and demands welcoming hospitality," report author Erika Zucker wrote. "We cannot continue to move forward if so many are held back by poverty despite being employed."

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Want to have lunch with Donna Brazile and ask her a few things? Next week's your chance

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election. - CREATIVE COMMONS/TIM PIERCE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/TIM PIERCE
  • Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) head (and New Orleans native) Donna Brazile is coming home next week to speak to the annual Independent Women's Organization (IWO) at the group's annual fundraising lunch.

Brazile has been in the news a lot in the last week, mostly regarding her recently published memoir about Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. In it, she says the Clinton campaign controlled the DNC's fundraising, to the detriment of challenger U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Former Clinton staffers and many Democratic leaders dispute this.)

But it was one comment she made yesterday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos that may raise some eyebrows in Louisiana in particular: that her experience at the DNC was worse for her than Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Editorial: Mayor's race a mud pit

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell at a debate at Xavier University Oct. 30. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell at a debate at Xavier University Oct. 30.

This editorial has been updated.

The final weeks of the 2017 mayoral election appear to be less a race to the finish line than a long, uncontrolled slide into a mud pit. LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet are exchanging accusations of poor money management and even poorer judgment. While neither set of accusations proves criminality — though both have alleged as much — the volleys raise legitimate concerns about both candidates’ character.

News stories about Cantrell’s freewheeling use of a City Council credit card have dragged on for more than a week as new questions kept cropping up. The District B councilmember reimbursed the city for thousands of dollars in charges — some in the form of a personal check, some from her campaign account. The problem here isn’t just potential illegality, but the wide latitude accorded council members via a $30,000-a-year expense account for constituent services. Mayoral and departmental employees at City Hall have very specific, written policies for the expensing of meals and travel. Council members and their employees likewise must abide by a written set of rules, although Cantrell says many of her credit card expenses fall into “gray areas.” Cantrell insists that her lump repayment of more than $4,400 in credit card charges right after she qualified for mayor demonstrates her scrupulousness, but it could just as easily be seen as the move of someone who knew this would become a campaign issue.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cantrell: ‘Gray areas’ were not improper spending

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 10:05 PM

LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.
  • LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.

In an interview with Gambit Thursday evening, District B City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell addressed the latest salvo in the mayor’s race: charges that she misused her city-provided credit card. A packet of information relating to Cantrell’s spending — and money she had reimbursed the city — was provided anonymously to newsrooms around town yesterday. Everyone assumes the delivery came from the camp of Cantrell’s mayoral opponent, Desiree Charbonnet.

Cantrell said her personal check in the amount of $4,433.22, which was received by the council’s fiscal office on July 17 (one day before her campaign kickoff party), was not evidence of wrongdoing or sloppiness, but was her attempt to “take a laser focus on everything” she has spent on her nearly five years on the council.

“A lot of this is gray area,” she said, referring to expenses that the Charbonnet campaign claims were not directly related to daily council business. Cantrell said she asked then-Council Chief of Staff Evelyn Pugh, who is a lawyer, to “opine” on some of her expenses. “I never got the opine, so I reimbursed it,” she told Gambit. “If it’s [a gray area], well, then just go ahead and reimburse.

“It’s not even that those expenses wouldn’t qualify as legitimate on the city’s [credit] card,” Cantrell added, “but if it’s gray, just do it.”

Louisiana law and city policy prohibit the use of public funds for personal expenses.

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Read: Some of the documents relating to LaToya Cantrell's use of city-provided credit card

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 1:56 PM

New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.
  • New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.

News desks around town yesterday were provided with public records documentation of New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's use of a city-provided credit card, which included personal and political expenses. The information came from allies of the campaign of Cantrell's opponent in the November mayoral runoff, Desiree Charbonnet.

Charges on that card, according to the records, were reimbursed by Cantrell months and sometimes years after they were made.

One major reimbursement check for almost 50 expenditures, drawn on the personal account of Cantrell and her husband, Jason Cantrell, was dated July 1, 2017 but received by the city's Fiscal Office on July 17, one day before Cantrell formally kicked off her mayoral campaign. Five of the reimbursed items covered by that personal check stretched back to 2013, less than a year after she was elected to the council. The attached memorandum was dated July 14 and sent by Cantrell's chief of staff, John Pourciau.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cantrell used city credit card for personal purchases, partially reimbursing the city around the time mayoral campaign began

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 11:35 PM

LaToya Cantrell.
  • LaToya Cantrell.

New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who led the 18-candidate field in the Oct. 14 mayoral primary, charged nearly $9,000 in personal or political expenses to her city-issued, taxpayer-financed credit card since taking office in 2012, according to public records given to Gambit and other news organizations by the campaign of Cantrell’s runoff opponent Desiree Charbonnet.

According to those public records, Cantrell reimbursed the city for at least $8,950 in such charges. The Charbonnet campaign alleges in radio ads and in public statements that Cantrell has a lot more explaining to do — allegedly because she charged a total of more than $40,000 in questionable expenses to the city-issued credit card over the years.

Moreover, almost half of Cantrell’s reimbursements — $4,433.22 — came via a single check received by the City Council Fiscal Office on July 17, 2017, five days after Cantrell qualified for mayor. The date on the check reads “7/1/2017,” but a memo from Cantrell’s office noting the “attached” check is dated July 14. She qualified for mayor on July 12.

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