LaToya Cantrell

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mayor-elect Cantrell kicks off transition team meetings

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 7:38 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell outsider her transition team office at Xavier University. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell outsider her transition team office at Xavier University.

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell formally kicked off her 190-member transition team tasked with taking deep dives into more than two dozen issues Cantrell hopes to attack as soon as she enters office in May.

In an auditorium at Xavier University Jan. 29, Cantrell addressed members making up the sprawling network of committees and subcommittee, chairs and advisory boards encompassing her transition into City Hall. She thanked them “for stepping up to the plate alongside me to ensure our city truly reaches its full potential,” she said. “You’ve demonstrated your commitment to inclusiveness and to truly build a city that is equitable. That is what our work and focus will be on over the next couple of months.”

Her kickoff follows last week’s reports that those transition team members asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, ostensibly to give outside parties peace of mind that what they discuss with committees and subcommittees remains in the room. Those reports come amid criticism of her transition strategy, one that’s been light on specifics and powered by a politically powerful board structure. Cantrell defended the nondisclosure agreements to ensure protection of a flow of information that “will be very sensitive.”

“When you’re trying to organize citizens on creating a plan you want to implement you really have to create safe spaces for that dialogue and that level of engagement for people to truly lean in,” Cantrell told reporters.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Advocates for human rights resolution respond to New Orleans City Council's withdrawal

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Members of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee presented a draft of its human rights resolution to City Council staff in December 2017.
  • Members of the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee presented a draft of its human rights resolution to City Council staff in December 2017.

After members of the New Orleans City Council expressed regret after voting for a human rights resolution they passed earlier this month, the resolution’s proponents feel jilted by a City Council that previously had supported them.

The New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee (NOPSC) helped draft a broad resolution that commits the City Council to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and encourages the creation of a process through which a City Hall committee can review the city’s investments and contracts to determine whether they violate that commitment.

Throughout the year, members of NOPSC had communicated to staff from each council district to get the measure on their radar. District B Councilmember and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell introduced the resolution, and five members of the City Council cosponsored it. It passed 5-0 on Jan. 11.

But after its passage, several groups and officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, slammed the resolution for its role in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting Israel’s denial of a Palestinian state. (The resolution does not specifically mention Israel or Palestine, nor any other countries or municipalities.)

Councilmembers withdrew their support and will reconsider the resolution Jan. 25.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

'It's time to get to work': New Orleans Women's March brings large crowd to the streets

Posted By on Sat, Jan 20, 2018 at 4:37 PM


Thousands of people extended from City Hall to Rampart Street past the Saenger Theater, beginning New Orleans’ second edition of the Women’s March and joining hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S.

In 2017, New Orleans joined millions of women who were inspired to mobilize against newly minted President Donald Trump, misogyny in the executive office, his admission of sexual harassment and assault, and looming threats to women’s health care.

A year later on Jan. 20, many people returned to the march, once again donning pink pussyhats and carrying colorful slogan-filled signs, or turned out to march for the first time. The Women’s March crowd and its speakers and organizers represent a broad political spectrum but encompass a platform for equal pay, equal access to health care, and emphasizing the importance of racial and economic justice as issues that impact women and families.

This year, coming off the heels of #MeToo and momentum behind exposing sexual abuse, the march aimed to have a sharper focus on intersectional feminism and centering the voices of women of color and transgender women, women working low-wage jobs, and currently and formerly incarcerated women.

“There was a time where I wouldn’t hold my head up, and I was afraid,” said Transition Louisiana’s Jada Cardona, among the first transgender women to be employed by the state. “There was a time I wasn’t accepted as as person. There was a time when I was considered ‘insane.’ There was a time, and there still are times, when I am afraid. But not today.”

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Big chill far from over in city politics

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 1:22 PM


For months, New Orleanians feared a sudden rain storm more than anything else would overwhelm the city’s antiquated infrastructure. Now we know that an extended cold snap can be just as ominous.

Icy streets, busted pipes, low water pressure, boil water advisories, shuttered workplaces, and even tragic deaths ranked among winter’s harsh toll this week.

New Orleans was far from alone, though it was (literally) cold comfort to learn that we had lots of company. In Jefferson Parish, for example, the entire East Bank fell under a boil water advisory.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport lost heat — and some functioning toilets — for several hours, but the news was far worse downtown, where high-rise hotels began turning away visitors.

The biggest problem with the big chill of 2018 is that we’ll be dealing with its aftermath long after the weather warms up. That’s particularly true of the city’s water and sewerage system.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Orleans officials announce construction of low-barrier shelter

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 5:45 PM

A low-barrier shelter in the former VA hospital on Perdido Street is expected to open in April.
  • A low-barrier shelter in the former VA hospital on Perdido Street is expected to open in April.

As New Orleans prepares to implement a freeze plan that demands the city's four homeless shelters open their doors to anyone on the streets, officials announced construction of a low-barrier shelter at the former Veterans Affairs hospital on Gravier Street, where a gutted second floor on a chilly Tuesday afternoon held promise of connecting people experiencing homelessness to an array of services to help them get on their feet.

The 12,000-square-feet, 24-hour shelter will offer 100 beds with little to no barrier for entry, including no admission fees or sobriety tests required for entry. People entering the shelter can also access mental health and substance abuse services, as well as living spaces and office spaces.

Construction and implementation is supported by block grant funding, the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF), the Downtown Development District (DDD), the Louisiana Housing Corporation and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The New Orleans City Council approved $1 million for its construction in 2016, which the DDD matched. The city's annual costs are expected to be $750,000.

Officials said the shelter will be open and services will be online in April.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Mayor Landrieu says City Council resolution 'ill advised'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 6:11 PM

The New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee proposes City Hall consider city contractors' relationships to international human rights abuses. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • The New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee proposes City Hall consider city contractors' relationships to international human rights abuses.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the New Orleans City Council's resolution that encourages the city divest from companies involved with human rights abuses in the U.S. and abroad is "ill advised, gratuitous and does not reflect the policy of the City of New Orleans."

On Jan. 11, the City Council passed the resolution supported by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which introduced the measure to City Hall as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), a global pro-Palestine effort taking aim at companies and municipalities supporting Israeli occupation.

The resolution doesn't mention Israel or Palestine, nor does it have any legal teeth, but it acts as a guideline for the Council as it "commits itself to protect, respect, and fulfill the full range of inherent human rights for all, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other international human rights instruments" and encourages the "creation of a process to review direct investments and contracts for inclusion on, or removal from, the City's list of corporate securities and contractual partners."

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gayle Benson, Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson to serve as honorary co-chairs on Cantrell transition team

Posted By on Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 2:20 PM


Gayle Benson, Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson will serves as honorary chairs on Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell's transition team as she prepares to take office in May.

Benson, wife of Saints and Pelicans (and Dixie) owner Tom Benson, joins Xavier University president Francis and Isaacson, former head of the Aspen Institute and editor of Time magazine, as well as a sitting member of the City Planning Commission.

Transition advisory board chairs include Turbosquid CEO Matt Wisdom and Kathleen Kennedy, dean of Xavier's college of pharmacy.

The board of advisors includes Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) founder Norris Henderson and Peacekeepers organizer Willie Muhammad; Propeller founder Andrea Chen; Iam Tucker with Integrated Logistics Support Inc.; Bonita Robertson with the Greater New Orleans Foundation; Advocacy Center's Vincenzo Pasquantonio; Broadmoor Improvement Association's Annamaria Villamarin-Lupin; attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate Caroline Fayard; Anne Milling with Women of the Storm; Dana Peterson with the Louisiana Department of Education; former Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David R.M. Williams; NewCorp president Vaughn Randolph Fauria; and real estate developer Matt Schwartz.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Editorial: Derrick Shepherd and 'second chances'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 2:13 PM

Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.
  • Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.

Doesn’t every ex-offender deserve a second chance? That’s what former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd wants to know — especially as applied to himself. Shepherd was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison in 2010 for his role in a money-laundering scheme, and he recently launched “2nd Chance NOLA” with the stated goal of helping ex-offenders return to society. It’s a worthy goal, but Shepherd’s timing suggests it’s more about him getting a second chance in politics.

The backstory: The New Orleans Advocate reported that Shepherd attended a Dec. 18 meeting between New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and local legislators, most of whom were alarmed to see Shepherd there. At least one, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, walked out. The Cantrell campaign sent mixed messages until a spokesperson categorically denied Shepherd would have any role in her transition or administration. Gambit later reported that Shepherd also attended an Algiers luncheon where Cantrell was the featured speaker.
In his Gambit interview, Shepherd said he went to the Algiers meeting because he had ideas on how to improve the Sewerage & Water Board, and wanted to share them with Cantrell. Less than 48 hours later, however, a public records request by The Times-Picayune | found Shepherd had written a speech for Cantrell to deliver at the meeting — though both Shepherd and the Cantrell campaign say it was unsolicited.

Criticism of Cantrell’s apparent association with the disgraced former lawmaker led to Shepherd cutting what looked a lot like a campaign ad earlier this week. Standing in front of a giant American flag, he complained that “fake local news began to attack me.” He did not refute any of The Advocate or Gambit’s reporting, however. “Why can’t someone like me contribute to the growth of our city?” Shepherd asked.

A fair question, and we have an answer: Shepherd is absolutely free to contribute to society, but his violation of the public trust by committing a federal felony — and a crime of egregious dishonesty at that — should preclude him from appointed or elected public office.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell offers a glimpse at her transition plans at St. Peter Claver Mass

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 9:21 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell at a Mass celebrated at St. Peter Claver Church Jan. 4.
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell at a Mass celebrated at St. Peter Claver Church Jan. 4.

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, her family and roughly two dozen people sat among the pews at St. Peter Claver Church in Treme Jan. 4 for Cantrell’s first public event tied to her transition into the mayor’s office. The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah led a Mass offering prayer and solidarity with Cantrell and her family, and as the service concluded, she joined her husband Jason and daughter RayAnn to receive his blessing at the altar. “She got here by God’s grace,” Rev. Asare-Dankwah said, “and God’s grace will see us through.”

Cantrell also glimpsed what she’s been up to at the beginning of an unusually long transition period — after winning a runoff election in November, she won’t enter office until May. The mayor-elect said she received transition-related documents from City Hall last Friday, and she’ll begin announcing transition team members next week.

Through an organization named Forward Together New Orleans, Cantrell’s transition staff moved into offices at Xavier University Jan. 2, with the District B Councilmember’s Chief of Staff John Pourciau formally leading the transition team. The Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Foundation for Louisiana are the organization’s fiscal agents.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

12 Clancy DuBos 'Politics' columns of 2017

Posted By on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 12:00 PM

In our annual Year in Review issue, Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos always composes his Top 10 political stories of the year. Here are 12 of his "Politics" columns from 2017.

• Counting coup, for now: DA Leon Cannizzaro and Mayor Mitch Landrieu exchange barbs over funding and crime

• All-out war in Jefferson Parish: Mike Yenni and Chris Roberts have accused each other of being unfit for office

• The target is truth itself: A National World War II exhibit on Nazi propaganda resonates today

• Our monumental challenge: Coming to grips with the past as the city takes down its monuments to the Confederacy

• Disarm all abusers: House Bill 223 prevents domestic abusers from possessing guns

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