New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who sought and therefore presumably wanted the job she holds, got her knickers in a twist last week when Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said folks in his city expressed concern that crime from New Orleans East was seeping across the Twin Spans into his fair burg. Her honor fired back that local governments should be working together to fight crime and not driving wedges. Chief Fandal agreed, perhaps more politely than I would have.
Days later, another horrific mass shooting struck New Orleans right in its heart – and in the heart of its tourist economy. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 15 people were shot in the Crescent City, at least two of them fatally.
The sad reality is that if you don’t want people complaining about crime being bad in the suburbs “like it is in New Orleans,” then stop New Orleans from being known as much for violence as it is for Mardi Gras.
No, Mayor Cantrell didn’t create this problem. Arguably – and I often argue it – her predecessor did, with a three-year hiring freeze on NOPD, budget cuts to the District Attorney (which then Councilwoman Cantrell supported, I do believe), and the waste of millions upon millions of dollars on things like terrorism-prevention road blocks for the French Quarter, the Rampart Street streetcar to nowhere, solar-powered trash cans and … well, you know. There’s other stuff that needn’t even be mentioned.
There are issues, as well, that are beyond this mayor and her predecessor’s control: an overly politicized judiciary, for one, and that’s not something anybody at City Hall can make go away.
The thing is now, though, that it’s the mayor’s job to fix it. And, again, it’s a job she ASKED FOR.
Yes, yes, I know there are other priorities, too – including things the last mayor neglected miserably, such as a subterranean infrastructure that seems like it could, at any moment, rupture and swallow whole swaths of the city into the underworld. There’s that collapsed hotel causing massive issues – and a major investigation. There are streets that more closely resemble the surface of the moon than any terrestrial, man-made infrastructure. But public safety simply MUST be at the top of the list, even as her administration moves to address these other pressing issues.
I once loved New Orleans. I now avoid it. I even avoid driving THROUGH it. I like knowing that if I forget to lock my car door, my stuff is still going to be there. I like knowing that if I call 911, the police have the resources and personnel to show up in a timely manner. I like knowing that when law enforcement asks for tips to solve a crime, there’s no bidding war for a reward; we work together to keep our neighborhoods safe because it’s the right and mutually beneficial thing to do.
Slidell isn’t Shangri-La. No place is. And, yes, the Police Department in Louisiana’s 17th largest city has a much smaller population to protect. But they do it.
I wouldn’t have Mayor Cantrell’s job if you wrapped it up and put it under a Christmas tree, but she wanted it. Now she needs to do it, and not waste time complaining when some suburbanites throw shade in New Orleans’ general direction. Want folks to stop complaining about New Orleans’ failures? Stop failing. Let us know how we can help – and we mean that.
Merry Christmas, New Orleans. May your shopping season bring no more violence and may your innocent citizens and tourists get the safety they pay for and deserve. Let me know when it’s safe to bring my friends, family and disposable income back to your city. I’ll be waiting with hope – but not a lot of optimism.