Now, she is traveling too much . . .

It seems Mayor LaToya Cantrell can’t catch a break.

Look, we’re are not about to argue over whether the Mayor’s travel budget could or should be trimmed a bit. And we certainly favor the prudent use of public funds in all instances.

Still, as we see it, travel is a part of any mayor’s job. It is a part of this mayor’s job and the mayors before her. And for those of you who covet the seat, remember it will be a part of the job for every single mayor to follow.

Now if City leaders want to tighten the belt on how much public money can be spent on official travel and the sort of expenses that can be placed on the public dime, we can accept that so long as decisions are reasonable and fair and will be applied across the board.

But, there are a few things that we cannot sit back and let y’all do without speaking up:

  • What you are not gonna do is convince us that just because the Mayor is out of town, whether on a personal vacation (don’t you get to take a vacation from your job?) or official business, that her very absence puts the city and its citizenry in jeopardy. It does not. Nothing anyone could say would make such an absurd statement true. We can assure you that the individuals committing violent crimes are not paying attention to the Mayor’s travel itinerary. Y’all still need to stop!
  • And you are not gonna to act like LaToya Cantrell is the first mayor of New Orleans to rack up a hefty travel bill. Again, this point is not to attack any former mayor, but rather to expose the selective recall and blatant bias, even when it comes to pricey travel for questionable trips under the umbrella of city business. The news flash is that it is not new! Lest we forget, former mayor Mitch Landrieu spent more than $16,000 on a trip to Paris for himself and four of his staffers to commemorate New Orleans’ tricentennial. The trip was little more than pomp and circumstance. The official reason for the trip was to honor nations that played a role in the founding of New Orleans as the City celebrated the 300th anniversary of its founding – hardly a pressing concern for the everyday, working people of New Orleans. Still, we get it. It was a great marketing tool that fostered goodwill and promoted the city abroad. Sometimes the job calls for a bit of glad handing and, well, pomp and circumstance. We tried, but we cannot recall any talk about ordinances to cap city spending on travel after Landrieu spent more than $16,000 on ONE trip — a trip that did nothing to edify the lives of the people of New Orleans. There was a mention or two in a couple of news article about Landrieu’s tricentennial trip to France, but not nearly the same firestorm that rages surrounding Mayor Cantrell’s travel. We do, however, recall former mayor Ray Nagin catching all kinds of hell because he spent $2,000 for a trip to the 2010 Superbowl for himself and a security guard. If a trip to Paris to thank a foreign country for colonizing a swamp in the New World some 300 years ago is official business, a trip to the Superbowl that featured the New Orleans Saints should certainly be seen similarly as it provides an opportunity to represent and promote New Orleans. Look, it’s not that we think that some version of an ordinance that sets limits for public spending on travel for elected officials in New Orleans is a bad idea. We just refuse to act as if such an ordinance only became necessary because of LaToya Cantrell. And we are not gonna let y’all do it either. Oh, and we WILL fearlessly point out what we see as racial bias in the way that very similar actions are perceived based, it seems to us, on who is involved. We will not sit in silence, allowing others to shape an unfair, biased narrative. Not on our watch. We will tell the story . . . our way.
  • One more thing you are not gonna do — and that is make us believe that the Mayor’s travel schedule is an indication that she is not doing her job. In our previous commentary about the criticism being lodged at Mayor Cantrell, we cited what we maintain are accomplishments of her administration. Has she been the perfect mayor? Of course not. But we dare you to show us one that has been. Yes, there should be expectations. She should leave New Orleans a little better than she found it. But just because she takes a few trips does not mean she is not doing the work here at home. Taking issue with her over the particulars of policy decisions is one thing. But poking at every and any move she makes is trite and counter productive. New Orleans is not going to magically transform because of one mayor. It is not going to transform in one or two terms. It will only transform with consistent revolution across political, social, economic paradigms that challenge status quo standards long established by inequitable policies and practices that are as old as the city itself. And everyone needs to put skin in that game. If we don’t, the mayor of New Orleans—whoever he or she is—could pitch a tent and roll out a sleeping bag in the middle of Duncan Plaza for four years straight and nothing will change.

New Orleans has 99 problems. The Mayor’s travel ain’t one. And perhaps, when y’all stop putting on as if it is because it happens to make for an easy target and great headlines, we can get to solving the real issues this city faces.

The New Orleans Tribune

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