BAYHAM: Decision Day Approaches For New Orleans

One of these two things will happen on Saturday in New Orleans: the voters who bother to show up at the polls will either keep the mayor they have or potentially embarrass her by barely denying her an outright victory and sending the mayoral race into a December runoff.

Not a single person running against LaToya Cantrell possesses a high profile, though two of her opponents – Republican Vina Nguyen and unaffiliated candidate Lelani Heno – have at least made a determined effort to offer alternatives to the incumbent with the limited resources they assembled.

The political class opted to take a powder on facing off against Cantrell, which is remarkable considering the current quality of life in the city, the onerous COVID mandates unilaterally imposed by City Hall, and the general combative nature of New Orleans politics.

Since 1962, every mayoral election in New Orleans had been competitively contested by a challenger of standing except in two cases: Moon Landrieu’s 1974 reelect and Marc Morial’s 1998 reelect. Cantrell’s 2021 might be number three.

The most serious potential challenger to Cantrell was Councilwoman Helena Moreno, though she showed more interest in running for Congress than mayor and as she’s going to be termed out after a likely big win on Saturday the former news reporter could start laying the groundwork for a mayoral bid in four years.

Former State Senator JP Morrell was another possible candidate but his reentry into the political arena was for New Orleans’ other council-at-large seat that is also being sought by District C Councilwoman Kristin Palmer.

Morrell is considered the favorite as he’s patched together a similar coalition of diverse voter groups that helped Piper Griffin score an upset for the city’s state supreme court seat last year. While both Palmer and Morrell are decidedly progressive in their politics, the latter has a better track record of at least engaging with Republicans.

As Orleans Parish has become a GOP political wasteland where Republicans have been blanked on the local level for a decade, having not won a council seat since 2002 or a school board race since 2008, just having someone on the council willing to return their phone calls passes for a win for Republicans in New Orleans these days.

But back to the mayor’s election.

Arguably the second most powerful office in Louisiana behind governor, the office of mayor has a far reach beyond city administration, especially since what happens in Orleans doesn’t stay confined within the parish lines.

A prosperous New Orleans benefits the entire region; conversely the city’s problems are not shouldered exclusively by the locals.

The most disturbing city trend for those residing in neighboring parishes are the spate of interstate shootings.

Because of its central location, all east-west traffic south of Lake Pontchartrain must traverse the sliver of land between the lakeshore and the riverfront that is Orleans Parish.

As of now there are two elevated expressways running across, I-610 and I-10…and amazingly enough the Biden Administration wants to literally  take down the latter and simply redesignate the former, which will magically transform Claiborne Avenue into some sort of Honalee.

As these stretches of interstate involve no traffic signals, a high volume of vehicles moving at high speeds, and limited access off and on these raised, isolated, or walled segments of highways, theoretically they should be safe from the gun violence that plagues New Orleans neighborhoods and surface streets.

Well not anymore.

Since 2018, interstate shootings in Orleans Parish tripled in 2019, almost quadrupled in 2020, and have already quintupled (I had to look up the actual word spelling on this one) in 2021- and we still have a month and one-half to go.

The NOPD has tried to reassure the public that these incidents are rare and that they tend to involve known parties.

To their first point, there are lots of terrible things that happen in this society that are rare but their infrequency doesn’t make them any more tolerable.

And as to their second attempt to paper over this growing phenomenon, if you’re shooting from a fast moving vehicle at another fast moving vehicle whose driver might be aware of who’s behind the wheel of the pursuing vehicle there’s a good chance they’re not going to calmly observe lane passing protocols.

And the NOPD has far more confidence than warranted in the accuracy of the perps involved in these interstate drive-bys, judging by the “crackshot” skills of the knuckleheads who’ve opened fire on their targets in French Quarter and Canal Street shooting incidents.

I’m sure those being treated for gunshot wounds incurred while driving on I-10 to Target in Metairie (no pun intended) or Rocky & Carlo’s in Chalmette will be relieved to know that they were only accidentally hit with bullets being extracted from their shattered femur.

But that’s just the tip of the levee when it comes to New Orleans’ problems- for there’s also habitual neighborhood flooding, boil water advisories, streets that would test the engineering of an urban combat military vehicle, car jackings, grandmas getting stabbed to death in home invasions, higher cost of living, and the premium of taxes you pay for the privilege of having a coveted 701– zip code and being able to walk to a parade route two weeks per year.

If you live in the city ask yourself these two questions: are you truly satisfied with the way things are and if not who are the best alternatives to make things better?

And then take direct action on this by voting.

If you don’t live in Orleans Parish but have friends and/or family who do, challenge them to do the aforementioned.

Yes, you have a constitutional right to not vote but still complain; but then you’d have no justification in doing so.

Merely griping that nothing ever changes and not bothering to cast a ballot for those who might help make a difference is an act of political despair and perpetuates the cycle of misery.

Don’t just be mad, do something about it.

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