It happened on Friday, and it might have been the most ironic and instructive moments in recent Louisiana political history. Exactly what does LaToya, a community organizer who has never had a job outside of politics, know about professionalism, anyway?
Long-simmering tensions between New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Stephen Perry, the head of the city’s tax-funded tourism marketing organization, New Orleans & Co., erupted Friday after Perry ripped what he views as a restrictive approach to reopening businesses and a failure to consult with top executives in the tourism industry.
Cantrell fired back, calling Perry’s contacts with City Hall during the coronavirus crisis “unprofessional, adversarial and baldly counter-productive.” Her administration also shared profanity-laced texts Perry sent in mid-March to John Pourciau, the mayor’s chief of staff, just after Cantrell announced the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day festivities on March 11 amid the initial outbreak of coronavirus in New Orleans.
Perry, in an interview Thursday with The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate, had blasted Cantrell and her staff for not collaborating with tourism leaders, making announcements about potential cancellations without coordinating and consulting with Perry and others beforehand.
He said Cantrell had taken a “demagogue approach” and “tried to make it a battle between safety and business” — something Perry called “so untrue because the businesses are the ones that want to create safety standards.”
Perry also suggested that Cantrell was moving too slowly to let restaurants and some other businesses open back up and considering too many restrictions, saying he’d supported extending the stay-at-home order until May 15 but that some restrictions now needed to be lifted by May 16, with cultural attractions such as museums allowed to open under new protocols “no later than June 1.”
It isn’t like Perry has a perfect handle on the situation, either, as he lauded the statewide response from Gov. John Bel Edwards – who has already kept the state shut down 11 days longer than it should have been and who has neglected to allow cities and parishes lightly affected by COVID-19 to resume business. This past weekend it was clear the people of Louisiana have had it with the economic shutdown – the roads were filled with cars all over the state and the businesses that were open were full of customers. The state’s citizens are on the verge of simply ignoring its government, something that will become completely obvious if Edwards insists on pressing his “contact tracing” regime in which an army of hundreds of $14-per-hour state employees will attempt to impose quarantine on people who aren’t sick but can be placed in proximity to known carriers of the virus.
Nobody will listen to those edicts, which are patently unconstitutional. Chaos will reign if police are sent to homes to enforce quarantines.
So Perry probably should have left Edwards out of his comments. He probably also shouldn’t have dropped F-bombs in text exchanges he had with Pourciau, the mayor’s chief of staff, when Perry went ballistic over Cantrell’s canceling all the major events in New Orleans until the end of the year.
But that doesn’t make Perry wrong, because it’s quite clear that Cantrell has no idea what she’s doing in overreacting to the virus. And it’s pretty amazing that anybody working for LaToya Cantrell would use the word “unprofessional” to describe her critics when those bodies are still rotting at the Hard Rock Hotel construction site and she’s running around talking about borrowing $100 million to finance a budget shortage she had a hand in making by destroying future city tax revenues.