LaToya Cantrell: The People’s Mayor

Leading During Historic Times

Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief

In these historic times for our nation and world as we are living through a Pandemic as well as an election that’s testing the fabric of our Democracy; Data News Weekly recently spoke to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell about these issues and a host of other things facing the City of New Orleans.

In her time in public life Cantrell as a politician has always shown a sense of sincerity and concern for those who have the least. It is this bottom up approach to leadership that’s made her a champion among those often who do not have a voice representing them in the halls of power.

The Need for Investing in Infrastructure, Early Childhood, Libraries, Affordable Housing and Economic Development 

On this day Cantrell is not only speaking more broadly about the historical moments we are facing in the City and nation, but of her support of three millage proposals that will be on the ballot in the December 5th election brining help to the City in the areas of Early Childhood Education and Libraries, Infrastructure, Affordable Housing and Economic Development.

The City over the years have had monies invested in these areas before, but Mayor Cantrell is taking an approach she feels is more efficient and most importantly sustainable and built around the growth of the City where all the citizens can prosper and have access to resources and a better quality of life.

“A millage renewal package is to keep resources very intentional about how we restructure it, and it will come to voters as a tax decrease proposition infrastructure and to maintain and upgrade projects across the entire City. We have never had a dedicated fund for maintenance. Since Katrina we have invested 1.5 billion, but no so call source of funds to maintain the investments we made.”

“Early Childhood Education and libraries are important because we must invest in our young people and also maintain our libraries as they are a valuable resource to our community.”

“Affordable Housing and Economic Development are issues that are at the forefront and as a City we must pivot towards a more diverse economy to growth sectors and workforce development to ways we have not done before to build our people up. This will help lift our entire City if all our people have opportunities to have a job that can provide them the ladder to a better life.”

Civic Engagement and Voting Matters in Shaping the Direction of the City of New Orleans (bold)
People went to the polls across the City and nation in record numbers during the November Election. But what is expected is a drop in voting in the run-off, but Cantrell is optimistic and encourages the voters to stay civically engaged.

“I believe it is important for people to vote and get involved and having a voice on the direction of their community. We wanted to put our best foot forward to support this budget renewal and also in the form of a tax decrease. These millage proposals are important because it aligns with the needs of our community and works to improve the quality of life in our City.”

Affordable Housing continues to be an issue in a City that is experiencing gentrification that’s changing some of the fabric of the neighborhoods. This is an issue that’s divided the City. Mayor Cantrell is an advocate of progress, but also believes that the need for Affordable Housing and the rich diversity of the residents of the City is important to maintain.

“We do not want to create pockets of poverty in our City. The need for Affordable Housing is needed everywhere and no one should be blocked out of any neighborhood. We are looking at this through an equity lens, and we continue to ask the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for their very valuable input.”

On the Millage that focuses on Affordable Housing, Mayor Cantrell says it can assist both renters and homeowner programs the City already has in place and she is taking a long-term approach to fixing this problem that is plaguing the City.

By passing this millage, it will give us the flexibility and enable us to continue our Rental Assistance Programs that are operating. It will also give much needed help to our homeowner community because we are seeing them struggle to pay their mortgages. Our plan is one that takes a long-term approach that will help us immediately works to align us as a City with the needs of the community that may change over the course of 20 years.”

All People Matter…The Need for Equity
While there’s economic activity and investment in new businesses that’s occurring in the City, much of it many African American businesses and residents are not experiencing opportunities equal to their numbers in the population. Equity is something Mayor Cantrell has been fighting for even before her time ascending to the City’s highest elected office. But has become a paramount priority of her administration being one of two Mayors from the U.S. to serve on a Global Task Force of Mayors from across the globe.

“The key to us being the City we can be is our commitment to small and minority businesses and people of color period. It is important we invest workforce development and helping our people and to develop the talent pipeline we need in these industries that are growing in particularly blue, green and grey infrastructure so local people can have access to good paying jobs.”

The Making of “Herstory”
The nation just experienced history as the nation elected its first woman and person of color Kamala Harris as Vice-President Elect. This rings something special for Cantrell as a first in her own right. In which time she’s shown that she has what it takes to lead and take the stands that’s needed and skills to work with people across the political aisles and varied interests.

“We will find great partners in the Biden Harris Administration, but I will say that we have maintained a relationship with all our federal partners. New Orleans sits very nicely, the relationship is good and will remain strong,” says Mayor Cantrell.

On the significance of Kamala Harris being elected Vice-President and for the continued progress of women she says…

“It means progress on so many different levels in that we are one year removed from the 100 years of women getting the right to vote, but not necessarily Black women. But to have her represent women of color in our country the time is definitely right and her using the same words I used, ‘that while she is the first, she will not be the last.’ I appreciate those words coming from her and seeing the change happening from one generation to the next and while we are in these roles it is important that we do these jobs effectively so we will not be the last.”

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