The three leading New Orleans Mayoral candidates are on the record as being pro monument. The Louisiana Landmarks Society and Preservation Resource Center and some other preservation groups hosted a candidate event Tuesday night called the Historic Preservation Forum on Loyola’s campus.
Well into the event (1:22:30 to be exact), the host turned to the audience to accept questions and offered the floor for the first question. A hero stood up and asked the candidates, “News broke last night that the Orleans Parish School Board has denied a not for profit permission to freely, at no cost to taxpayers, restore our nation’s oldest World War I monument. Will you play politics with our city’s historic sites?”
It was one of those moments when the entire room gasped, then held their breath waiting for the answers. The moment was brief, but the room was tense. You could have heard a pin drop. But the candidates did not flinch in their responses.
Michael Bagneris: “Great, great question and the direct answer is no, you shouldn’t play politics. That monument was established to honor soldiers from our area who died protecting us and what we stand for in terms of our uniqueness and our city but more importantly our country. Absolutely not.”
LaToya Cantrell: “I will not play politics as it relates to our monuments. I would work with the Monumental Task Force and other organizations and people to ensure that they can do and really get engaged in preserving what they feel is necessary, but I think playing politics has mostly divided our community instead of pulling us together.”
Desiree Charbonnet: “I would not play politics either. I think we need to find the money to preserve those types of monuments. It reflects our history and shows how much we respect those who sacrificed for us. And I think absolutely we gotta show that we have respect for those who fought for us. I would not play politics. Yes I would fund it.”
The contextualization of playing politics is a nice way of asking, “If elected, will you work as a smug dictator like Mitch Landrieu?” The candidates have only addressed monuments once in July, and at that time, they said it was a distraction and they wanted to move forward. Cantrell and Charbonnet were critical of the Confederate monuments saying they supported the removals, which is obvious for Cantrell who voted for their removal, but Cantrell also called them symbols of “segregation and discrimination.”
Since the July monument questions to candidates, America has gone monument mad. Historic monuments have been removed, American historical figures vandalized, a Catholic Saint beheaded, and as the questioner said, the Orleans Parish School Board is refusing to allow the restoration of a monument on their property to World War I veterans from the Ninth Ward.
All three candidates said they will not play politics. They supported preserving the city’s historic sites. Unfortunately, they would need to be attached to lie detectors to know their true feelings, but putting them on the record again is a start.
Another forum will be held by the Advocate Wednesday night near the Lakefront at the Hellenic Cultural Center on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. Maybe they will address to residents and business owners whether they plan to change the name of streets, like for instance, Robert E. Lee Boulevard.