BATISTE: Worst Mayoral Options For New Orleans Since…Well, The Last Contested Election

The runoff for New Orleans Mayor places two options who are less than inspiring in front of New Orleanians voters on November 18th.  The city faced a similar dreadful decision in the last runoff held for mayor.

Many New Orleanians will likely stay home rather than cast a vote.  Many say they want to head to Jefferson Parish.  Some already have left.  While the turnout was low in the general election at 31.9%, the runoff may set historic lows.

The runoff between LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet puts the worst candidates on the election ballot since the 2006 runoff between C. Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu.  That 2006 election had an entirely different feel as New Orleans citizens showed fight and perseverance.  Emotions ran strongly to support each candidate, as the election was viewed as the most important choice in the city’s history.  Plus, it was felt that Nagin or Landrieu could possibly run the city.  Hindsight now shows us neither were capable of it.

Ray Nagin was elected.  Voters of New Orleans couldn’t stomach another Landrieu in City Hall at the time.  To New Orleans’ detriment, citizens had to undergo two mayoral terms of both Nagin and Landrieu. Much of their worst fears were realized when Landrieu was rounding out his second term and decided to play dictator, desecrating and rewriting history, and in doing so causing an enormous racial rift in New Orleans to catapult his own political ambitions towards the White House.

Nagin infamously inserted race into his reelection in 2006 with his Chocolate City line.  Nagin’s reelection was a series of failures, public disappointment, revealing investigative news reports, and ultimately, after his second term expired, indictments and conviction.

Landrieu rode in on his white horse after Nagin’s second term.  But after 8 years of Landrieu, the city is defeated, gutted from within.  While Mitch brags about billions that came in for infrastructure, the city flooded twice this summer due to gross neglect of the city’s drainage system for which he serves as the President of the Sewerage & Water Board.  And cousin Renee Landrieu is paving half the city through her recent startup, Landrieu Concrete & Cement.  No matter what the polls say, Mitch Landrieu is loathed and will go down in New Orleans lore beside Beast Butler and Bloody O’Reilly.

As a result of two mayoral terms of Mitch Landrieu, Cantrell and Charbonnet have campaigned to a demoralized New Orleans.  While even the Times Picayune said the candidates “never really ignited the voters’ imagination,” Mitch Landrieu placed a malaise over the Crescent City like a fog over a swamp.  It’s like Mitch raped New Orleans and is moving on to his next victim, and the city is discarded wondering what just happened.  Now New Orleans is stuck with two lack luster candidates that couldn’t ignite a strong base.

Cantrell flip flopped on the monument issue.  After initially siding with constituents to preserve historic monuments, the California transplant broke her word and voted to remove New Orleans history in 2015.  She has not taken a public position on other “controversial” monuments such as Andrew Jackson.  Plus Cantrell stated in one forum that she would work with the pro monument groups.  And somehow monument advocate Frank Stewart is supporting Cantrell.

Bigger than the monument issue, because it’s more fateful for New Orleans’ existence, Cantrell has a consistent history of irresponsible use of the City of New Orleans credit card issued to her.

The Cantrell expense questions are numerous.  WWL TV said she charged a meal in California to her city card, but cash was collected and she didn’t pay that amount back until much later.  Meaning she charged the city, pocketed the cash, and only paid it back because she hoped to avoid a public controversy.  She had tax liens on her house.  And as covered in the Hayride, Cantrell’s Broadmoor neighborhood association is a fiefdom.

Cantrell’s husband, a City Attorney at the time, dropped a marijuana cigarette in court.  He received the connected elitist slap on the wrist and nothing happened.  Meanwhile, if your average New Orleans lawbreaker dropped a joint in court in front of a policeman, they would not be so privileged.

And a segment of the population strongly believes no one who served and allowed the Sewerage & Water Board catastrophe to play out due to ignorance should be promoted or even employed by the City, meaning LaToya’s time on the Council reflects poorly on her management and leadership.

Charbonnet said she was happy when the monuments were removed.  Her backers include Ike Spears and Blair Boutte as well as Cedric Richmond.  Those power brokers though they had the perfect candidate, a smart, attractive, light skinned, old New Orleans, black creole.  Charbonnet has not inspired voters, she has not won over the public.  She has major financial backing from city vendors which raises concern over pay for play.  Charbonnet’s personal work record is much better than Cantrell’s.

After Katrina, Chris Rose wrote a column about how New Olreanians had to grin and bear it through the recovery.  Cantrell and Charbonnet are bad options and we will once again have to grin and bear it, a pattern that is giving everyone wrinkles at this point.  2017 would have been a great opportunity for an outsider, one without political baggage, to come in and save New Orleans.  Cantrell continues to have a huge lead in the polls despite her misspending.  And unfortunately, Old Hickory can’t ride in to save New Orleans this time.

The 2017 choices are equivalent to Ray and Mitch in 2006.  LaToya’s spending almost mirrors some of Nagin’s spending.  Whether LaToya’s actions are indictable will only be known in time.  Charbonnet has political power brokers in the background.

The last time New Orleans faced such bleak options, the city suffered through the worst of both worlds.  The Big Easy had an incompetent crook in Ray Nagin, then a self serving dictator in Mitch Landrieu.

New Orleans previously looked down the double barrels of a Nagin and Landrieu ballot when everything seemed to be on the line.  Now it can be called bad options or a tough decision or the cliché choosing between the lesser of two evils, or the choice between a wild-spending transplant and a true New Orleanian, connections and all.  Alas, the City That Care Forgot will likely forget to vote and the Big Easy will continue its regression.

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