With the announcement of no Mardi Gras in 2021, it is time for a jazz funeral for the economy of New Orleans. Under the Covid-19 economic restrictions, the city has been suffering for months with few tourists and conventions. As a result, many businesses have closed and will never open again.
However, the loss of Mardi Gras will be catastrophic for New Orleans. It could take years for the city to recover. Mardi Gras is the biggest event on the city’s calendar. Every year, approximately one million tourists visit New Orleans to boost the city’s economy and enjoy the “greatest free show on earth.” The economic impact is estimated to be $1 billion per year for the region.
The decision was made because of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the Cantrell administration canceled Mardi Gras without informing the krewe captains, who were expecting some sort of modified celebration. Now, many of these organizations might not be able to survive until next year.
This decision will have a ripple effect on my aspects of the tourism-based economy of New Orleans. It will impact restaurants, hotels and the many businesses that are centered around Mardi Gras. There are businesses that sell beads and other throws, float builders, and even formal wear stores that will suffer as the Mardi Gras balls will also be canceled.
New Orleans is not only facing a loss of special events and conventions, but the cruise industry has shut down through February of next year. This is another major engine of the economy that is gone, at least temporarily.
Unfortunately, while the economy is declining, just the opposite is occurring with the crime rate. In fact, the rate of violence is soaring. In September, the 2020 murder rate exceeded the total number for 2019.
Amid all these problems, Mayor LaToya Cantrell will be facing the voters of New Orleans again in the fall of next year.
She has a shortened term of three years and eight months due to the change in the dates of New Orleans elections and the inauguration. While she officially took office in May of 2018, her term will end in January of 2022. In recent years, New Orleans elections were moved from the early part of the year to the fall and the inauguration ceremonies were moved from May to January.
Mayor Cantrell will certainly run for re-election and it is not known if she will face serious opposition. Historically, it is almost a guarantee that an incumbent Mayor of New Orleans will be re-elected. The last time an incumbent Mayor of New Orleans lost was in 1946, so history is certainly on the side of Mayor Cantrell serving another term.
Despite her advantages, Mayor Cantrell is facing an unprecedented challenge due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While many citizens have given her high marks for her leadership, others have criticized her strategy to pursue a slow reopening of the city. New Orleans has been lagging the rest of the state in reopening certain types of businesses so essential for the tourism-based economy.
Despite the economic problems, the Mayor told a local business leader, Mark Hughes, one of the owners of the event venue, The Cannery, that her main concern was the “health” of the citizens. In fact, she told him that she did not care about their business losses. In a meeting with their staff, she expressed limited concern that they were losing employees and unable to pay their bills. Her answer was to wait for federal funds to provide relief.
As the city possibly moves back into a lockdown, many businesses are closing, unable to wait for assistance. Others, with financial support or savings, will be able to weather the pandemic storm, but it will be interesting to see how these economic issues impact the upcoming election.
Mayor Cantrell was elected in 2017 with 60% of the vote. In a February 2020 survey, her approval rating was 53%, with a disapproval rating of 42%. This represented a decline from the 57% approval rating she registered the previous year. Even more troubling, only 50% of the respondents indicated they would support her re-election, while 44% said they would oppose another Cantrell mayoral term.
Since that survey, the Mayor has faced a multitude of issues other than the pandemic, the economic woes, and the surging murder rate. One particularly embarrassing and continuing problem has been the delay in demolishing the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown New Orleans. While the demolition has dragged on months, a major roadway in the city, Canal Street, has been blocked off
At this point, no well-known politician has surfaced to challenge the Mayor. While qualifying is not set until the summer, any serious candidates will need to start raising money at the beginning of 2021. It will take a significant effort with a considerable war chest to defeat an incumbent Mayor of New Orleans.
With citizens facing horrific economic conditions, the Mayor is potentially vulnerable if she had to face a well-financed opponent. However, it remains to be seen whether any noteworthy candidates will enter the race. Among the opponents she could face is Councilwoman-at-large Helena Morena or Cantrell’s 2017 opponent, former Judge Desiree Charbonnet.
A few months is an eternity in politics, and we can be sure that plenty will change between now and the election, but the Mayor’s decisions to aggressively lockdown the city will undoubtedly be an election issue for the voters of New Orleans.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs nationally on Real America’s Voice Network, AmericasVoice.News weekdays at 7 a.m. CT and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America’s Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on Crouere.net. For more information, email him at [email protected]