Dear Members of the New Orleans City Council,
Convinced that you were ready to roll up your sleeves and work together to move New Orleans forward, The New Orleans Tribune endorsed every single one of you now serving on the New Orleans City Council. However, since your inauguration early last month, we have observed one questionable decision after another. We discuss a couple of them in detail in this print edition and on our digital platforms.
The short story is that you have given us pause, made us think twice and side-eye glance you so hard that we have crooks in our necks.
If you know anything about us here at The New Orleans Tribune, you know we will unapologetically use our unfettered voice to say the things that need to be said, even if , or, perhaps, especially when no one else will say them. After all, somebody has to call a thing a thing. Somebody has to say it!
But this letter is not to chide you. It is to remind you that the people of New Orleans believed in you, voted for you, put their faith and trust in you.
Don’t start 2022 off by making us wonder why.
As a council you have reversed the longstanding practice of awarding an education grant that results from the City’s lease with Harrah’s to the elected School Board by giving it instead to a non-profit that has been a part of the failed education reform movement. Don’t get us wrong, we have a lot of issues with the lame-duck Orleans Parish Public School Board. Admittedly, it isn’t the best recipient of those funds either, as evidence by the fact that its members urged you to give the money to New Schools for New Orleans in the first place and to kick the Office of Youth and Family Services out of the deal.
But if you wanted to do something radically different that indicated that you actually understood the needs of your constituents and our community in the area of public education, there were oh so many better options than New Schools for New Orleans.
STEM NOLA, BE NOLA, Rethink, Brothers Empowered to Teach, Our Voice Nuestra Voz—just to name a few. We have said it before, we will say it again. Instead of cutting the Office of Youth and Family Services out at the request of the Orleans Parish School Board, the entire grant could have been given to this agency to create more opportunity in early childhood education. Or are we going to pretend as if the mountains of studies and research that link a strong educational foundation and future academic success don’t exist?
We’re not entirely sure of all of the parameters surrounding the use of the money. But there is the growing concern surrounding the lack of qualified educators. If the Orleans Parish School Board didn’t want the grant, this could have been a great opportunity to create a novel program to attract and retain qualified, certified teachers to our city through scholarships and recruitment and retention programs. Seriously, Just because the School Board does not care about public education in this city does not mean you shouldn’t. Taking your leads on public education from a school board that does not oversee or even wants to oversee a single public school in a city where it is elected to oversee public schools—not a good look.
Enough about that, we won’t belabor the point. We’ve already said the decision made no sense to us. And the truth is that you can’t make it make sense, except that it is a boon for New Schools for New Orleans, which isn’t raking in funding at the same pace as it did in those early post Katrina years when everybody was jumping on the charter school bandwagon. So we get why it welcomes this Harrah’s education grant as a new revenue stream.
Just Do What You Said
You shared with us all types of plans about battling crime, spurring economic development, addressing the affordable housing crisis, and more when you were campaigning.
Can we get some of that, please, instead of efforts to usurp the power of the Mayor’s office.
We still believe you guys have in you the ability to be the incarnation of the New Orleans City Council that truly moves our beloved city into the 21st century, but you have to show us something other that the same old petty political posturing.
Look, we don’t want the City Council to always agree the Mayor or vice versa. And we don’t expect to always agree with every decision either entity makes either. But we are not sitting over here trying to figure out ways we can take over the jobs of the City Council without running for the office. If questioning an elected official’s judgment was a good reason to change the city charter, the ink on the pages would never dry.
You want a say in mayoral appointees? Run for mayor . . . and win.
Until then, think about what’s best for this city and its people, and do that work with the powers you have now as city council members.
Do the work you said you would do. We don’t see how trying to run the Mayor’s office from the City Council chambers or kowtowing to an ineffectual school board is a part of that, And it sure doesn’t seem to be the best way to start off your tenures.