While Aug. 15 marked Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s 100th day in office, she sat down with The New Orleans Tribune one day earlier to share answer a few questions and share her thoughts on her administration’s progress.
Discussing items from infrastructure to criminal justice, the Mayor detailed accomplishments as well as areas she has pinpointed for continued improvement.
Speaking specifically about the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board she said the agency, which is set to get a new permanent director in September is “moving in the right direction.” The Mayor added that 116 pumps are now working.
She also detailed progress at the city’s Youth Study Center, where juvenile offenders are housed.
“When I began, there were 42 vacancies, now it’s under 20,” she told The Tribune.
The Mayor also recently released a printed statement sharing highlights of her administration’s efforts over the past few months.
“At the beginning of this administration, I committed to the people of New Orleans that we would hit the ground running, with a City Hall that is intentional, accountable and transparent, and this overview shows that we are taking important first steps,” Cantrell said in the statement. “We are particularly proud of the way we have listened to our people and met them where they are so that our solutions come from the ground up and not the top down. But we are mindful of the fact that we are literally only days into this work, and that we need to keep building momentum to address the serious challenges we face.
Areas of progress detailed in the Mayor’s statement include:
•During the first 90 days of the Cantrell Administration, the City and Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) have greatly accelerated their spending of the nearly $2 billion in funds from the FEMA settlement for streets and sub-surface drainage. In fact, the spending of S&WB’s funds for infrastructure is double what was spent during the entire period between the obligation of this settlement in July 2016 through the Mayor’s inauguration on May 7, 2018. Additionally, 25 percent of the total city streets funding that has been spent from this same settlement has been expended since May 7 alone.
•Hired a new Executive Director for the Sewerage & Water Board – Ghassan Korban, former commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works, who will start in September.
•Completed a series of capital projects, including reopened NORD facilities and libraries, and the first phase of the Brechtel Lagoon.
•Awarded $10 million in HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF) funds for the development of affordable housing in the City of New Orleans.
•Established a Gun Violence Reduction Council that will serve as an advisory committee for the Mayor to develop innovative approaches to reduce gun violence, which accounts for 90 percent of murders each year in New Orleans.
•Completed a comprehensive study of the use of traffic cameras to ensure that they maintain public safety and are used fairly and strategically throughout the city.
•Increased fire-safety and awareness campaigns that have led to sharp increases in data collection and sharing, smoke-alarm system installation, fire-hydrant testing, commercial occupancy inspections, and public engagement.
•Initiated a search for a Chief Executive Officer for the New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission, as NORD has reopened the last two NORD facilities that had been closed since Hurricane Katrina, with renovations completed at other facilities.
•Established an Office of Transportation, followed by the appointment of its director, Laura Bryan, and two others to the Regional Transit Authority’s board of commissioners.
•Created a Procurement Office inside the Department of Finance to ensure more efficient, inclusive and transparent procedures for City contracting.
•Set the framework for “Clean Up New Orleans,” a campaign that will launch in mid-September and will galvanize efforts in several departments, including Sanitation, Public Works, Parks and Parkways, and Code Enforcement to create a comprehensive clean-up effort throughout the city.
•Established an Office of Youth and Families, headed by Emily Wolff, to address persistent issues related to health care, education and inclusion, and to strengthen the well-being of New Orleans’ youth.
•Set new leadership and doubled staff for the Human Relations Commission for the first time in two decades, with first steps including the reassignment of the Commission’s Advisory Board and the establishment of an LGBTQ+ Task Force to focus on challenges faced by communities of color as well as the transgender community.
Despite the administration’s boasts, Mayor Cantrell indicates there is still more work to do.
“As with any administration, we began our work knowing we would have advantages, and we would have our challenges. Now that we have a clearer grasp of the challenges we’ve inherited, we can put a sharper focus on how to address those challenges effectively and move this city forward,” she said. “We must continue our work to keep our people safe and healthy, to fix our broken infrastructure, address inequities, and to create and encourage economic opportunity that can help our people enjoy the quality of life they deserve.”