There’s an item which has percolated quite a bit on the internet this week since being posted on Facebook on Sunday by a tourist from Alabama named David Webb. The item is an open letter to New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell regarding the impressions of her city from the perspective of a customer of the city’s leading industry.
And it isn’t good.
Here’s the link to the Facebook post, but for ease of use and to limit the amount of traffic we give to that platform, we’ve reprinted it here…
I’m just like any other visitor to your city. I came from Alabama this weekend with my 16 year old son to participate in an all-weekend travel baseball tournament at various locations around New Orleans: Avenger Field, UNO, and Belle Chase High School. It’s been almost 10 years since we were last here. Personally, I’ve been to your City dozens of times since childhood, thru my high school & college years, as a business professional for seminars and shows, as a sports spectator and concert goer, as a father of a family of 4 on vacation, and now as a run-of-mill visitor here for a purpose.
While visiting this weekend, it was my intent to carve out some time to see the normal historic downtown hotspots we’ve always gone to in the past as a family: Canal St, Bourbon St, French Market, Riverboat, Cafe Du Mon[de], the River Walk, Aquarium, Jackson Square, etc. while also playing our baseball games. And we did. And it was eye-opening to say the least. I thought I’d put my observations together in this letter so you could grasp what a visitor sees today in the specific areas/places I mentioned above.
First, the blight you have in the downtown area is unfathomable. Entire huge buildings off of I-10 are eye sores, and the first thing visitors see driving into the City. There are numerous dilapidated buildings with no windows, no ply board, graffitied, and/or rusted beyond repair. They are abandoned tired old structures that show scars of Katrina’s aftermath I’m sure; a storm from over 16 years ago.
Second, the stench is horrific. There’s always been that sewage/garbage smell associated with the old sections of New Orleans. Such smells we’ve picked up on as a kid while visiting. And we understand why it’s like that. Once conditioned to it, it’s pretty much been normal, acceptable, and tolerable because that’s just how it is. You know it’s going to smell so you just ignore it as best you can and move along with enthusiastic intentions of enjoying the sights, the music, the food, and everything else we’ve fondly grown to love about NOLA. But there’s one problem now that knocks ya down almost as soon as you get out of your car: WEED. Marijuana. Dope. However you want to call it. It’s absolutely disgusting. Visitors and locals are smoking that trash in plain view, out in the open, on the streets, in front of kids, families, and your police. And they (police) do nothing about it. Perhaps you have a stand-down order in place to enforce drug use on your streets? Whether it’s for political reasons, a thinly-stretched understaffed police force, or sheer ambivalence, it is destroying your City in my opinion. Allowing people to blatantly smoke weed on your streets is a nasty travesty. It’s also going to cost NOLA in the long run. Promise. Your City has lost its way with allowing this drug trash to run rampant.
Third, your homeless are in need of attention. We walked miles thru your historic streets this weekend. While doing so, it is apparent that they have free reign. They darken the doorways of closed up shops everywhere. They sleep on dirty streets, walkways, and sidewalks and relieve themselves anywhere they choose, urinating and defecating in front of people. I saw this first hand in the side streets of The French Market. These poor folks need a helping hand. As it stands now, it looks like your City may be avoiding this problem altogether like it doesn’t exist.
Lastly, I want to strongly encourage you to react. This letter may mean absolutely nothing to you seeing that I’m an out-of-towner. But I also spent a lot of money while I was here, helping NOLA’s workers and presumably adding to your tax base to take care of these problems mentioned. I’m afraid if you do nothing, NOLA’s visitor base will decrease significantly in the time ahead. I doubt you seek such a goal. Tourism is NOLA’s bread and butter. If you don’t act now, and you let this mess continue, things will deteriorate for your wonderful City.
Have some pride, be a leader, and address this now before it’s too late.
David C. Webb
A Paying Visitor
Webb’s letter to Cantrell has gotten him some media play in New Orleans, as WWL-TV did a segment on the letter complete with an interview, and then he did a segment on Newell Normand’s radio show yesterday on WWL Radio.
Of course, as we’ve noted multiple times here, this is not going to make much of a difference to LaToya Cantrell. Do you really think she cares what some white Republican upper-middle-class travel ball dad from Alabama thinks of her city when she couldn’t give a damn what the general manager of Brennan’s Restaurant is telling her?
Not to mention the complaint about marijuana will especially fall on deaf ears seeing as though Cantrell’s husband makes a practice of bringing joints into the courthouse.
But this is a pretty prominent black eye for New Orleans, and almost everybody with any experience in the city of late knows everything Webb is saying is true. New Orleans is a haven for bums and slimeballs. It’s a dead city and that’s very obvious to anyone.
Cantrell won’t fix it. Doesn’t want to fix it. The citizens can’t fix it without getting rid of her. And we don’t see any evidence that they care to fix it, either.
And like Webb said in his letter, things will continue to deteriorate.