It Doesn’t Appear LaToya Cantrell Is Learning From Her S&WB Mistakes

That’s the logical conclusion after consideration of Cantrell’s statements at a job fair for prospective employees of New Orleans’ ridiculously incompetent and corrupt Sewerage & Water Board – which among other things offers the extravagant thrill of Water Bill Roulette to its customers, some 20 percent of whom have contested wildly inaccurate invoices for H2O which might or might not be potable depending on time and fortune.

Cantrell had responded in prickly fashion shortly after taking over as the Big Easy’s mayor – a position which carries with it the presidency of the Sewerage & Water Board – upon being presented with a list of demands amounting to a consumer’s bill of rights by City Councilman Joe Giarusso, firing back a letter upbraiding the Councilman for his “tone.” Those receiving thousand-dollar S&WB bills for what should be $50 worth of water one imagines might have a more strident tone than Giarusso’s, particularly when he partially backed down.

But Cantrell has now doubled down on protecting S&WB employees from a dissatisfied public…

Addressing a crowd of job seekers Friday (July 13), New Orleans MayorLaToya Cantrell called for the city to show some respect for the oft-criticized Sewerage & Water Board, which has come under harsh fire for its handling of drainage and customer billing issues.

Cantrell aimed a few strong words at critics amid remarks praising those looking to reduce the utility’s staffing shortfall. She spoke at a daylong job fair held Friday at Xavier University.

“No longer will we tolerate disrespect as it relates to the Sewerage & Water Board,” Cantrell said. “And I don’t care where it comes from, because you all deserve respect every step of the way, and you have a mayor and you have leadership in place within the Sewerage & Water Board, again, to ensure that you succeed.”

Overall, Cantrell’s speech to job hopefuls Friday focused on praise for the utility’s “hard-working men and women” who are “protecting this city in ways that…we sometimes don’t even acknowledge.” She said the job fair would not only steer many people closer to employment, but also help bolster an agency she described as essential to the city’s survival.

“We’ve spent millions in regards to equipment,” Cantrell said. “But you know what? We have to do the same with our people, and that’s what you demonstrate here this afternoon.”

There are some 534 unfilled positions with the Sewerage & Water Board, including dozens of meter-reader positions the failure to fill which has been a key cause of S&WB’s inability to generate accurate bills. That, and the inability to properly use a half-million dollar software package S&WB purchased to generate a 21st century billing system.

Meanwhile there is no apparent interest among Cantrell or anyone else in the Crescent City’s political class in privatizing water delivery as a first-world city would have done years ago – and a second-world city would surely do in the face of S&WB’s manifest disastrous failures.

Instead we’ll continue to see the agency’s abject failure to provide a basic city service, and its president’s defense of incompetence based on the angry “tone” of those appalled at the Third World quality of its performance.

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